Biodiversity, MDGs top Helen Clark's Tanzania agenda

10 May 2010

Helen Clark continues her four country visit to Africa, meeting today with Tanzania’s Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs, Mustafa Mkulo to discuss the country’s progress towards the MDGs, particularly on combating HIV/AIDS, empowering women, and enrolling children in primary school.  

They also discussed how the "Delivering as One" programme has made a significant contribution to anti-poverty strategies and how to make Tanzania’s economic growth more inclusive to all Tanzanians.

Helen Clark was in Zanzibar yesterday where she met with the President of the island, Amani Abeid Karume. She also visited the Jozani-Chwaka Bay Conservation Area, the single most important site for the conservation of Zanzibar’s biodiversity.  UNDP supported the creation of the park and the Government of Zanzibar to put in place policies and legislative processes for the conservation of biodiversity there.

The Jozani-Chwaka Bay Conservation Area consists of a protected core area of 21 square miles and a buffer zone of 30 square miles. It is the single most important site for the conservation of Zanzibar’s biodiversity.

Chwaka Bay is a shallow open bay that supports the largest block of mangrove forest on Zanzibar and a wintering population of Crab Plovers, a species of bird that is unique in making use of ground warmth to incubate its eggs. The buffer zone of the protected area includes coral reef and a considerable variety of unique habitats.

The area is home to unique species of birds, plants, invertebrates and mammals, including the Red Colobus Monkey and Ader's Duiker, that are threatened, and the Zanzibar Leopard, which may have disappeared as it has not been recorded for two years.

The area is a growing tourist attraction. The Jozani Forest welcomes 20,000 visitors per year, more than 17% of the total visitors to Zanzibar.  Traditionally the forest and surrounding areas have provided major forest resources, particularly timber, building poles, fuel wood, bush meat, and soil for shifting agriculture.

But degradation of the environment from unsustainable harvesting of forest resources, the growing tourism industry as well as the absence of alternative livelihoods has put a strain on the area’s biodiversity and ecosystem.

UNDP supported the creation of a National Park - which protects the Jozani Forest  - and worked with the government in Zanzibar to enact policies and legislative processes for the conservation of its biodiversity, which is key to sustaining the livelihoods of the local communities.

The Jozani Forest is now managed by a community-led organization that gives 65 percent of the proceeds from managing the park back to the local community. Up to 90 percent of the association’s staff are locals from the villages situated within the national park.

In addition, the project has created opportunities for the sustainable management of natural resources. Thanks to a savings and credit schemes, it has provided cash to help new economic activities to grow. Alternative activities like mushroom growing, beekeeping, handicraft, vegetable farming and savings and credit have been established, curbing unsustainable practices and promoting livelihoods. The position of women has been enhanced through increased revenues.

"A lot of tropical forests are endangered, yet they are so rich in biodiversity," said Helen Clark, adding that "this is the Year of Biodiversity 2010".

Describing the Jozani-Chwaka Bay Conservation Area, she said "this is one of the top 25 biodiversity hot spots in the world". "It tells you how important it is to maintain this unique place, with its specific species of plants that produce so many benefits".

"It’s been great to see UNDP mobilize resources, including from the GEF, to engage communities in the protection of these incredible forests and to see the community is able to benefit from micro-credit schemes, women able to generate more money,  more children able to go to schools. There can be a lot of positive spin-offs when the communities are engaged behind an initiative like this."

Contact Information

Anu Hautalampi
Communications Specialist
Anu.hautalampi@undp.org ; +255.78.845.8989